“The Gateway” and the Dangers of YouTube Admiration
November 19, 2018
Teal Swan is not your typical YouTube personality. In her own words, she is a “a personal transformation revolutionary.” Swan posts self-help videos on a weekly basis to her audience of over 500,000 on YouTube. Jennings Brown, host of podcast The Gateway, stumbled upon Swan’s “hypnotic” videos after they began to appear under his “Recommended” on YouTube. Brown noticed quickly how different Swan was from typical YouTube spiritual guides. She did not shy away from going in depth into topics such as death and suicide. However, her methods have a dark side. Teal Swan has a very devoted following. Her fans and subscribers idolize her and make this known in the comments of her videos. Many of the fans trust her guidance immensely. When Brown continued down the rabbit hole that is the enigma of Teal Swan, he discovered that one of Teal’s followers, committed suicide while under her guidance. This follower made her suicidal thoughts clear to Swan, but instead of steering her towards a mental health professional, Swan kept this follower under her guidance until her death. Jennings Brown explores Teal Swan and her role in this follower’s suicide in The Gateway.
“The Gateway” provides a morbid look into the idolization of Teal Swan. The chilling integration of interviews with those directly connected to Teal Swan, as well as interviews with the guru herself, creates an atmosphere of tension and drama for the listener. Jennings Brown’s method of story telling is unique in its own right. His cadence and tone feels like that of a family member relaying a story from their life at a dinner party rather than that of a podcast host. This style works perfectly for a podcast about such a unique subject and reels in listeners. The Gateway is successful not only in its stylistic choices but as well as its story telling and messaging. However, The Gateway also provides its audience with a view into the world of YouTube idolatry.
Idolatry by definition is “excessive or blind adoration, reverence, or devotion.” Although the case of Teal Swan’s following is idolization at its most extreme, all of us may be guilty of it, even if we do not know it. This can be especially true for the personalities seen on YouTube, where creators can gain an incredibly large following in a considerably small amount of time. These followings, although not as intense as Teal Swan’s, can be highly loyal and adoring to the creator, even when the creator acts irresponsibly or irrationally. This mentality can lead to fighting between fan bases on the platform as well as outside of the platform. The creator becomes a superhuman like figure to their audience, a person who can do or say no wrong. This is a dangerous view to have of any person.
All consumers of media have a person, duo, or collective that they are partial to. That is normal. It is not normal to excessively adore or take ownership over the creator you are a fan of. The Gateway gives a look into the extreme nature of this adoration, and allows the listeners to reflect on how they consume media, specifically content on YouTube.
Do you see this sort of behavior on the social media platforms you use? If so, feel free to share your experience below.
Warning: Please note that The Gateway deals with serious and controversial subjects.